DEAR AMY: I recently learned that a relative, a young woman in her 20s, is involved in a polyamorous relationship – a menage a trois consisting of two women and one man.
I understand how the 20s can be a time of sexual experimentation. Of concern to me is that the man and woman she is involved with are married to each other. And “Given that my relative is involved with a married couple, what good can come of it for her? When I asked her mother about it, her response was that her daughter will have to figure it out for herself and that she can’t tell her daughter how to live.
When I expressed concern about her daughter getting hurt, she reminded me that no one is exempt from experiencing hurt in relationships. Both of these statements are true. Still, as an elder, I feel that there must be something between casting judgment and doing nothing.
I can only imagine how confusing the situation must be – as being involved with one person can be a challenge in and of itself. I have told her directly that I love her dearly, want the best for her and that my door is always open should she ever wish my support or advice on this or any matter.
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DEAR CONCERNED: Polyamory has stepped out of the shadows and is a relationship choice being made more often. Either that or it has a new press agent. Whichever it is, the sort of group comingling, partner sharing and swapping upends our notion of what romantic attachment is “supposed” to be like. This relationship model certainly makes us question what marriage is all about.
You sound very wise. We live in an era where expressing any opinion on someone else’s behavior smacks of “judgment,” and yet why are we here, if not to make choices and judgments and to gently guide our younger loved ones? I understand your instinct and double down on your concern.
However, my basic point of view is that consenting adults will do what consenting adults will do, and they have a right to their choices, unless they harm children or scare the horses. In the case you outline, all three are mutually consenting adults. Your young relative is not (apparently) having a secret affair with one of the spouses. Rather, the married couple has invited in the new partner, which makes her not an interloper but a guest – or perhaps a temporary amusement.
Yes, someone is going to get hurt. But hurt happens in most relationships. Your harshest judgment would be reserved for the married couple who are presumably older and who (I assume) hold the power. On the face of it, this feels exploitative – but you don’t know.
Your response so far has been perfect. If you are worried, say so. If you have questions, ask them with an open mind. Hold your loved one close and offer her a soft place to fall. She’s going to need it – but then, we all do.
DEAR AMY: I am an attorney. Recently at a party, an acquaintance was talking about some litigation his company is involved in.
I made a brief comment about something he said, and he responded, “We take advice from attorneys we pay,” and walked away. Should I feel insulted, or should I have stayed out of the conversation in the first place? Should my feelings be hurt?
DEAR NOT SURE: Your question implies that even if you had been out of line (injecting a legal opinion into a conversation at a party); your fellow partier’s rudeness would be justified. It doesn’t work that way. Rudeness is rudeness, and while your behavior might have been on the line, his behavior was over the line.
However, if you can choose not to have your feelings hurt, then definitely make that choice. He was obnoxious.
DEAR AMY: I feel sorry for all the people with petty gripes about their family members. I am the last member of my family and, believe me, it gets quite lonely, especially at holiday time.
I would give anything to have my siblings back. If people would stop and think about that, they would be sorry they did not make amends and get along.
Sad and Lonely at 86
DEAR SAD: Thank you for offering the gift of your wisdom and perspective. I hope joy finds you this Christmas; you deserve it.
Write Amy Dickinson at email@example.com.